First off, before I explain the benefits of cloaking your affiliate links, I need to let you know that affiliate links are not exactly “cloaked”. Cloaking is in fact a very serious violation of Google’s good search engine practices. The real definition of Cloaking is showing different content to users than to Google bot. As per Google Support pages:
Some examples of cloaking include:
- Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users
- Inserting text or keywords into a page only when the User-agent requesting the page is a search engine, not a human visitor
So coming back to the question on why you should cloak your affiliate links. When we say cloaking affiliate links, we are not really cloaking it – it could be called as making it look neater, shorter and/or more organized. Most affiliate links are a junk of random alpha-number characters.
For example, a typical hop link would look like: http://3e6e2rtnsdsronczq5mxk34caq.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=randomprod
This can be made to look like: http://collegefallout.com/recommended/randomprod
From the above it is clear that the latter definitely looks much better. Apart from this there are other various reasons why it is beneficial to cloak your affiliate links. Here are the reasons:
You will notice that cloaking your affiliate links would give you better CTRs. This is for the simple reason that typical affiliate links look very shady as shown above and you disguising it with your link would boost the trustworthiness in the readers eyes. Also, as per probability – the higher the CTR, the better your conversion rates.
I am personally not sure about this part, but from what I could understand from the articles on the internet. It seems like Google might not like affiliate links a lot and you disguising it and putting in a redirecting link might be a better idea. This is just to play safe and avoid unnecessary penalization if Google does crack down on sites that use a lot of affiliate links. It would really s#ck if the rankings go down on search engine and the whole affiliate marketing system comes crashing down.
You get your own Click tracking
Once you mask/cloak your URL, you get to track the clicks on the link from your end and not just rely on your affiliate program backend. This is a great way to keep a check and get alerted if there is any discrepancy in the data of the two.
If you are on the look out at how you can cloak the affiliate links you intend to use on your site, try using MBP Ninja Affiliate plugin.